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Modern wood heating industry celebrates 1GW milestone under Renewable Heat Incentive

REA and WHA working together to secure bright future for wood heating.


Installed capacity of modern wood heating systems under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) broke through the 1GW milestone on Friday, thanks to strong demand in commercial, industrial and public sector organisations.

Modern wood heating boilers burn wood pellets, chips, briquettes or logs and feed the heat into a central heating system or, in some cases, directly into industrial processes. Following a political campaign in 2008, led by the REA and Friends of the Earth, the RHI was launched in late 2011 to drive uptake of renewable heating systems in public and private sector applications. The scheme was expanded this spring to include more technologies and domestic installations.

As of today, there are 4,926 wood heating installations accredited under the non-domestic RHI, providing 1GW of reliable green heat to UK businesses and organisations, such as farms, factories, care homes, hotels and churches. PwC analysis, published by the REA in April, found that wood heating accounted for 56% of investment and over 90% of renewable heat generation between 2010 and 2012, demonstrating its excellent value-for-money. Of all the forms of low carbon heating or power generation with significant UK growth potential, 1MW+ wood heating is the cheapest in terms of financial support from Government.

Dr Nina Skorupska, REA Chief Executive, said:

Thousands of UK businesses have realised the benefits of biomass for delivering reliable, low cost, low carbon heating, and yet we’ve only just scratched the surface. We want renewable technologies to be the go-to option for all buildings and industrial processes, which will make a huge dent in our greenhouse gas emissions and greatly reduce our dependence on imported gas. To secure this, the Government must take the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and commit to sufficient funding for the RHI in the next spending round.”

The Wood Heat Association (WHA) was launched as a new affiliated trade body of the Renewable Energy Association in May. Together, the two associations are working to secure a sustainable future for the modern wood heating industry. WHA Interim Chairman Julian Morgan-Jones said:

“1GW of wood heating under the RHI is a major breakthrough. Our industry is growing fast, from boiler manufacturers and installers to fuel producers and distributors. We want that growth to be both successful and sustainable. As well as stability in the RHI, we also need to do more work on upskilling system installers and developing widely accepted installation standards for all boiler sizes. This is crucial for ensuring that as the industry grows, it maintains a solid reputation for excellent customer satisfaction.”

Key facts on the UK wood heat sector

  • In 2013, 2.8% of UK heating was supplied by renewables, up from 2.3% in 2011 when the RHI was launched. 55% of renewable heat generated in 2013 was from wood burning, with a further 20% from plant-based biomass such asstraw, energy crops, paper and packaging. (Source: DUKES 2014)
  • Wood heat accounts for over 90% of renewable heat generation under the RHI to date, while log-burning stoves have long been popular without financial support from the Government. (Source: REview 2014)
  • Manufacturers, installers and project developers for biomass boilers and wood stoves turned over £600 million in 2012/13, sustaining 4,510 jobs in 210 companies. (Source: REview 2014)
  • Additionally, 519 companies producing and distributing wood fuel in the UK turned over £1.3 billion in 2012/13, sustaining 8,960 jobs. (Source: REview 2014)
  • Between 2010 and 2012, £760 million was invested in heat from bioenergy. This accounted for 56% of the total investment in renewable heat over the period. This share is expected to increase to 85% over the period 2013-2020. The vast majority of investment in heat from bioenergy to date has been in wood heat, although investment in biomethane from anaerobic digestion (“green gas”) is also expected to increase significantly to 2020. (Source: REview 2014)
  • Renewable heat generation increased by 19% between 2012 and 2013, suggesting the Government is on track for the 18% average annual growth rate required between 2012 and 2020 to achieve its indicative 2020 target of 12% renewable heat, as well as the binding 2020 target of 15% overall renewable energy. (Source: DUKES 2014/REview 2014)


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